NEW ORLEANS -- Despite his constant efforts to avoid breaking news or engaging in meaningful conversation about anything controversial, San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh confirmed Monday that outside linebacker Aldon Smith was voted Most Valuable Player by his teammates.
That was both newsworthy and controversial. Harbaugh discussed it during his Monday press conference in the buildup to Super Bowl XLVII against the Baltimore Ravens.
Smith was having a tremendous season with 19.5 sacks in 14 games and seemed destined to challenge the single-season record of 22.5 set by Michael Strahan.
However, defensive end Justin Smith injured his triceps and Aldon's sack streak ended. Because those two caused havoc as a tandem until Justin's injury, it seemed that Aldon was a force because he was the benefactor of his teammate's strong inside play.
Yet, Aldon's teammates made a significant statement by voting him MVP when they had other impressive options, such as inside linebackers NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis or even Justin Smith.
In confirming Aldon Smith's selection as MVP, Harbaugh said he was not concerned about the outside linebacker's late-season drought.
"Justin not being in there plays a part in (sacks)," Harbaugh said. "We love having Justin in there. The play of Aldon has been really good. He played the run really well (against Atlanta). Sacks are the low-hanging fruit that you see. They don't always see the other things Aldon is doing game in and game out.
"Aldon has had a tremendous year for us and a tremendous two years for our football team. The players and coaches have voted Aldon our most valuable player for this past year. I think that speaks volumes to the kind of impact that he has on our team. That was an internal vote."
For his own part, Smith admitted he was surprised to get the MVP honor, which is named for former 49ers coach Bill Walsh.
"Yeah, man, there are a lot of guys that are good," he said. "There are a lot of guys who could've gotten that award. ... A lot of guys on this team are all stars, who have made Pro Bowls consecutively. You have Patrick Willis, Vernon Davis, Frank Gore. I can go on. I come in in my second year and I get the MVP. It means a lot."
Smith also responded to questions about his late-season sackless streak.
"A lot more guys coming to block me. ... I'm getting double-teamed a lot, triple-teamed at times," he said. "And then the quarterbacks are getting the ball out fast.
"Another thing that's really cool about that is if I'm not making a play, a lot of times I'm getting double-teamed a sack comes from somebody else. I might not get it, but at the end of the day the stats still say it's a sack."
Another Smith Heard from
Reports indicate Alex Smith, deposed by Colin Kaepernick as the 49ers' starting quarterback in November, has requested his release after the Super Bowl. Harbaugh painted a picture Monday of Smith as the good soldier since the switch.
"He's prepared and been involved in the game-planning. He's prepared himself as the starter each week. That's what expected of him," Harbaugh said.
"(He's) another person to credit in Colin's success. Alex has really helped coach Colin. He coaches Colin now more than I do. That speaks volumes for the kind of teammate and person that Alex is."
The late Bo Schembechler, who was Harbaugh's coach at Michigan, left a lasting impression.
"Next to my dad, right on the same level as my Dad (Jack), is Bo Schembechler," Harbaugh said. "To me, he's one of the greatest coaches to coach the game. I've studied (former Ohio State coach) Woody Hayes quite extensively. To my mind, those are the three coaches I try most to emulate."
Harbaugh sidestepped a question about President Obama's concern about the future safety of football. Obama said over the weekend that if he had a son, he'd be reluctant to have him play football.
"I have a 4-month-old soon to be 5-month-old son, Jack Harbaugh. If President Obama feels that way, that's a little less competition for him," Harbaugh said.
Jack and Jackie Harbaugh have the most talked-about sons in America this week. Their allegiances will be split between the coach of the 49ers and their older son, Ravens coach John Harbaugh.
"I know they're excited," Jim Harbaugh said. "I've talked to them a few times. They're very much looking forward to the game."
Despite the temptations that the French Quarter offers, Harbaugh said he won't impose a curfew on his players.
The 49ers appear to be treating the Super Bowl as a business trip. Players refrained from taking pictures and videos of their arrival Sunday in New Orleans.
"We've talked about that very little," he said. "We trust our team."
The Sports Xchange wire service contributed to this report.